At the end of June 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates were a very respectable 41-35 and only one game behind the Cincinnati Reds. By the time the calendar turned over to August, they were 60-44, only three games behind the Reds and one game up in the wild card race. Not a bad spot to be in, right? When the season ended on Oct. 3, the Pirates were 79-83, 18 games back in the division and nine games back in the Wildcard. What in the world happened?
The answer to that question might be elusive but we can take an easy out by saying a team doesn’t just fall apart like that without a little bit of everyone taking the blame. The offensive part of their struggle will be helped by off-season acquisition Russell Martin. Pitching certainly was a big factor in the decline as well and that is why the Pirates focused on that somewhat during the offseason.
They still aren’t exactly spectacular, though. What will they need to finish strong this season? Young arms could be the answer. James McDonald faded badly at the end of the season, but should finish better this season with that full year under his belt. The X-factor will be the prospects in the system. Gerrit Cole is the number nine ranked prospect in all of baseball for a reason. His cohort Jameson Taillon is just a few spots back.
While Taillon might not see much action until the end of the season in September call-ups, Cole could have a big impact midway through the summer. They should give Cole time to start the season at Triple-A and work on keeping pitches down. If that decline is threatening around mid-season, call up Cole and see what he does for you. The future is bright on the Pirates mound because of these guys. I promise we won’t have to wait until 2014 to feel their impact.